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Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Program

Dr. Pablo Celnik performing a magnetic brain stimulation treatment on a patient.

The noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) program at Johns Hopkins is one of the few programs of its kind in the country. Our program is run by recognized experts in the field of neurologic rehabilitation and motor learning who have more than 20 years of experience in NIBS.

We offer different forms of brain stimulation techniques paired with evidence-based rehabilitation to help treat a variety of neurological conditions and movement disorders.

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What is brain stimulation used for?

Several medical fields recognize the positive effects of brain stimulation. As rehabilitation physicians, we use this approach to help our patients improve a variety of brain functions affected by conditions such as:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Parkinson’s disease

We also find brain stimulation to be an effective treatment for:

Our psychiatry colleagues use brain stimulation to address a variety of psychiatric conditions, including medication-resistant depression.

Tomorrow’s Discoveries: Recovering After a Stroke

In their research to help patients recover after a stroke or brain injury, Dr. Pablo Celnik and his team at the Human Brain Physiology and Stimulation Laboratory have discovered how brain stimulation can reduce the amount of time it takes to learn different actions and boost how long we remember them.

Learn more about their research.

How Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Works

NIBS is painless, safe, has minimal side effects, and has been used in thousands of people worldwide. It aims to improve quality of life and reduce the effects of issues related to speaking, swallowing, movement, cognition or other functional areas. This can be achieved with one of these approaches:

  • Stimulating the damaged area of the brain to help restore the affected function
  • Stimulating a different area of the brain to compensate for the loss of function in another area

There are several ways to stimulate the brain externally. For rehabilitation purposes, we may use one or both of the following, based on your evaluation and the experience and expertise of our specialists:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses a magnetic field produced by a special coil to generate a magnetic pulse that stimulates parts of the brain. As the coil is placed over your head, you will hear a click and may feel a pulling sensation on the skin under the coil. Often patients describe the feeling as a tapping sensation on the head.
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation uses weak electrical currents applied via two small electrodes positioned on a person’s head with a rubber headband. You may see brief flashes of light, feel an itching or tingling sensation under the electrodes, or may feel nothing at all.

Regardless of the approach (but depending on the condition), we find that brain stimulation typically works best when paired with rehabilitation therapy. While the applications of NIBS last about 20 minutes, the treatment is combined with physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech-language therapy, depending on the condition treated. This way, NIBS helps boost the effects of the rehabilitation treatment. A typical treatment course aims to deliver high-intensity rehabilitation training in at least 15 sessions spaced over several weeks.

Our Brain Stimulation Team

Photo of Dr. Gabriela Lucila Cantarero, Ph.D.

Cantarero, Gabriela Lucila, Ph.D.

Expertise, Disease and Conditions: Brain Injury Rehabilitation, Electrodiagnostic Medicine (EMG), Movement Disorders, Neurologic Rehabilitation, Stroke Rehabilitation, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Photo of Dr. Pablo Ariel Celnik, M.D.

Celnik, Pablo Ariel, M.D.

Expertise, Disease and Conditions: Brain Injury Rehabilitation, Neurologic Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Stroke, Stroke Rehabilitation, Traumatic Brain Injury
Photo of Dr. April Danielle Pruski, M.D.

Pruski, April Danielle, M.D.

Expertise, Disease and Conditions: Brain Injury Rehabilitation, Neuro Rehabilitation, Neurologic Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spasticity Management, Stroke Rehabilitation, Traumatic Brain Injury
Photo of Dr. Rajani Sebastian, Ph.D.

Sebastian, Rajani, Ph.D.

Expertise, Disease and Conditions: Aphasia, Neuroimaging, Neurologic Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Speech and Language Disorders After Stroke, Speech and Language Impairments, Speech Language Pathology, Stroke Rehabilitation

Speech-language therapists: Amanda Gallagher and Shauna Berube

Physical therapists: Anne Spar, Nicole Biltz, Kendra Cherry-Allen and Jonathon Wood

Occupational therapist: Jessica Dileo

Learn more about our therapists who specialize in neurology.

How to Participate in the NIBS Program

Not all people who have symptoms that can be treated with brain stimulation are good candidates for the procedure. That’s why we start with a comprehensive evaluation to determine whether this treatment is right for you. Talk to your physician if you are interested in trying brain stimulation. He or she can refer you to our program or you can contact us directly for an evaluation at 410-616-7404 or 410-616-7413.

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